Monthly Micro Competition: September shortlist

We’re excited to share the shortlist for this month’s Monthly Micro Competition. Vote for your favourites at the bottom of this post — we’ll announce the winners on 29th September.

A Barbed Wire Tattoo

You came for me in the middle of the night and I stifled a scream. The soft glow of the moon was  our only guide as you showed me what I had been missing all these years, if only I had been  brave enough to leave the safety of my single bed.  

The barbed wire left imprints on my back from where we wrestled against the fence, a tattoo  reminder of misdeeds done and I cherished the bruises for weeks afterwards.  It wasn’t until I got home I realised a part of me had been left behind, snagged on the wire.

As We Forgive Them That Trespass against Us

  1. Saturday Bath-time.

She sees the watch on my wrist. Turns it over in her hands, fingers tracing creases in the old leather.

“Yesterday lunch-time, near the sandpit.” I say. 

She looks at me and I hear a steady ticking.

  1.  Monday Assembly

Mr Vance says that a watch, found in school, will be in his office for someone to claim. I press my hands together for The Lord’s Prayer. 

  1. Friday Tea-time

Dad watches her fasten it at the smallest notch. It feels heavy. Later, I wrap it in tissue and sneak it to the back of her drawer.  

Border Crossing

The border is 3,145km long. 

It’s taken almost eight years, but a 20-foot wall winds its way along the invisible line between lands. The photographer stands in the Texas sun, camera slung across her chest.

She tries to calculate how many tons of steel it took, but her brain goes blank, the number too vast. 

A team of builders stand by to secure the final ceremonial section. 

Sweat beads on her forehead. A cavalcade of cars appears, churning up dust. Shimmering light refracts from the desert beyond the wall and she pictures her family, the night they crossed the border.

Last Week I was Bitten By A Mosquito  

Now Tiff won’t stop talking about that bit in Jurassic Park where they extract the dinosaur DNA from the insect trapped in amber and I think if mama was here she’d tut and say that girl’s got a gob on her. 

She’ll blame Tiff, like always, but this time I’ll speak up. 

I’ll say trespassing was my idea. 

I’ll say hearing Tiff’s voice made me forget my no feeling legs and I’ll say how falling through the ground on the wasteland is strangely similar to how I feel now when Tiff squeezes my hand to check if I’m still with her.

On Hallowed Ground

This place is ours, but the sold sign says otherwise. 

Still, I hop over the back gate, brambles poking through the rails – fellow trespassers. 

Picking a blackberry, I thumb the fence with its juice, anointing it. And for a moment, I see your fruit-stained apron billowing, as you carry a basketful down the path. An echo flickering in the low September sun.

I fill up on familiar scents of lavender and overripe tomatoes, as a spider scuttles along an invisible thread. 

A car door slams.

And I sever the web with purpled fingers, leaving it adrift – golden in the light.

Scarce as Hen’s Teeth

I have zero in common with Jackson. He’s ex-T.A. and I’ve got a stove. 

Audrey’s on patrol tonight: Halloween green through the binoculars. People laughed when she started handing leaflets round school, ranting about food security. I told them to lay off because Audrey’s eyes made vegetable soup of my insides. 

She pauses, pixelated in chicken wire, scours the land behind. 

A fast might’ve worked; a taste of scarcity for those not on food banks. When you’re hungry, you’ll smash through concrete to get your hands in soil. You’ll do things you never imagined. 

On my signal, Jackson starts cutting.

Sometimes, The Best Things Feel Like Death

He’s left his toothbrush behind, its splayed bristles a roadkilled hedgehog. His middle-squeezed toothpaste tube puddled on her countertop. Time to end it? But how she savours their evenings: his midnight smell, the feel of him, thrilling as the days she went trespassing with the neighbourhood kids, compressing themselves under barbed wire fences into the Major’s grounds, creeping through long grasses to the bullrushed lake. The wonder of a rowboat tied to the jetty, the maze of lily pads, the air alive with amphibious croaks. Then, leaning in closer, the loom of a swollen-mushroom corpse: the shotgun-wielding Major’s once-prized koi. 

Sunday Dinner

‘I shagged your mother’s best friend,’ dad says, his spittle flecking the roast turkey’s  half-eaten carcass. Around his neck, a lopsided napkin bearing a cross-shaped gravy  stain taunts me. There’s nothing holy about this day, about the fact that of all his  memories, it’s this demon that trespasses its way across the worm-holed landscape of  his mind. Oblivious, he grapples with the Brussel sprouts dotting his plate. Tongue  drooling, he anchors the largest, admires it like a prized marble before swallowing it whole. My mother hooks her finger around a too small wishbone, dangles it above her  Royal Albert plate.

The Sign 

Some families pass around colds and the flu. Some families pass around insults, jokes, advice, or hugs. Like a talking stick, Brenda’s family of six passed around the No Trespassing sign: handmade stencils on a plank of bark-edged mesquite, the size of a baguette, two holes drilled into the top corners to hang by leather string on a bedroom, bathroom, sunroom door. The sign kept family apart so the holder could repent, rage, pray, or fantasize. 

The summer before entering college on an academic scholarship, Brenda inked the tattoo, No Trespassing, on her thigh. For protection, her father said.

When Mum Holds Hands with the Trespasser

Frozen – my favourite book. 

You hummed it so I threw it away; buried it deep in the rubbish bin so mum wouldn’t see.

At night you slither into my bed, size me up, shed your skin. Scales flaky and dry, virulent confetti to sully me.

Pizza – my favourite food. 

I smelt it on your breath; vomited, ruined my dress; buried it deep in the rubbish bin so mum wouldn’t see.

Mum’s in the kitchen cooking. You slither closer to me; whisper, ‘shall we play a game?’ 

Tonight, I pray for Eye Spy, in the hope that mum will see.